Freedom's Sentinel - 2015
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) ended on December 31, 2014 and transitioned to Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) on January 1, 2015. OFS was a contingency operation in accordance with Title 10 USC 101(a)(13). Afghanistan was the OFS Designated Operational Area. The deteriorating security situation resulted in a surge in U.S. troop strength from 30,000 in early 2009 to approximately 100,000 from 2010 to 2011. The surge reversed Taliban momentum and enabled a gradual reduction of U.S. forces to 16,100 by December 31, 2014, when the NATO-led combat mission ended and OFS began.
U.S. forces carried out two complementary missions under the military operation known as OFS: counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda, its affiliates, and ISIL-K in Afghanistan; and support for NATO’s Resolute Support capacity-building effort, which seeks to build the capacity of the MoD and MoI and to strengthen the ANDSF. OFS began on January 1, 2015, when the United States ended 13 years of combat operations in Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom and transitioned to a NATO-led train, advise, and assist role, while continuing U.S. counterterrorism operations. At that point, the Afghan government assumed full responsibility for the security of Afghanistan with limited U.S. or coalition support on the battlefield.
On October 15, 2015 President Barack Obama announced at the White House that he would keep US troops in Afghanistan through 2016 and a lesser number into 2017 to sustain coalition efforts to train and strengthen Afghan forces. As part of a four-step plan that he said would best ensure lasting progress in Afghanistan, Obama said he would maintain the current posture of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of 2016. Rather than reduce troop levels to a normal embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016, Obama said the United States would maintain 5,500 troops and a small number of bases, including at Bagram and Jalalabad in the east and Kandahar in the south.
Obama said 24 March 2015 the 9,800 American troops stationed in Afghanistan would remain there until the end of the year, despite earlier plans to cut them by half. US military presence in Afghanistan had been expected to be cut to 5,500 troops by the middle of 2015, and be brought down to an embassy-level presence by the end of 2016.
The president said that the timeline would be reworked and that the date for a final troop drawdown in early 2017 remains the same. The US administration would ask Congress for funding to allow the Afghan National Security Force to maintain its 352,000 troop level through at least fiscal year 2017.
US Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain said 24 March 2015 that Afghans are making “real progress,” but would not be able to reach their full capacity by the end of 2016 if US troops withdraw. “These are the same capabilities Iraqi forces were missing when the United States precipitously withdrew at the end of 2011,” the Senators noted. “We must not repeat this mistake. But that is exactly what would happen if President Obama insists on withdrawing from Afghanistan whether the job is done or not."
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